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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Paurotis Palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)

By Staff | Dec 10, 2014

First impression: My eye is drawn to the cluster of colorful small fruits that are small and change from green to orange to black when ripe. What a beautiful palm with its many thin, rough, mini-booted trunks. It is topped off with large, palm green on top and gray green below, fanlike fronds (palm leaves). Ouch, the frond stems are sturdy and armed (barbs) and emerge from a rough crown shaft.

Our star is a clumping palm that reminds me of the Florida from 1900s. When I peruse old photos of trappers and crackers, these scrubby palms are everywhere. You might also experience lots of memories and recollections looking at this palm, which used to be as numerous all over the state as orange trees once were.

We have oodles of this historic palm fruiting at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: I just love the Paurotis Palm; it is one of my favorite clumping palms. It has so many interesting colors and unique characteristics. The palmate leaves are light green with silvery undersides and grow a large 2-3 feet wide. Way neat is that the side fronds are on shorter stems than those at the top. Sharp colorful orange teeth line the stem edges. When the berries appear after tiny white flowers, they are showstoppers exploding with tropical colors.

The fruits light up our palm and adorn it with greens, yellows, oranges and blacks. The trunks are numerous, slender and can reach up to 30 feet. When left untended, they cluster and form great barriers. Because they can mass, mature palms need lots of hedging and pruning. Out in the wild, these palms are wonderful habitats and nest protectors because of their barbs and hovels. Botanists now know palms are not really related to trees but closer linked to the grass family.

Our star is a native plant and was a wonderful resource for our ancestor’s way before supermarkets and stores. It would sustain them with fuel, medicine, shelter, baskets, food and clothing. With its native status, it is perfect for our temperatures of dry climates and coastal areas.

Plant in partial shade to full sun; it will take on uplands, marshes, and salt issues. Has a tendency to develop “frizzletop,” a manganese deficiency, which can be remedied by a slow release palm fertilizer.

It’s kaleidoscope of berries which we admire for the colors are important to all wildlife. I have many a day watched migrating birds consume these berries to fortify them for their long journey home. Mother Nature thinks of everything!

Pros:

Historic palm for Florida

Does well in sandy soil

Likes full sun

Easy to maintain/prune

Easily propagated by seeds or transplant

Sustains multitudes of wildlife

Salt tolerance

Great survivor in a hurricane

Accent lighting enhances this palm at night

Great base for nesting boxes

Cold tolerant

Native status

Start making chickee huts in your backyard.

Cons:

Berries can be messy

Subject to Frizzle top

Slow grower

Barbs-Ouch!

Has to be contained by constant pruning not to get out of bounds

Great neighbor barrier.

Conclusion: Paurotis Palmwhat a beauty! Reminisce about days gone by when you could take up residence wherever you constructed a few palm fronds. Life was simple back then, but not as comfortable! Follow this tropical berry display to our botanical oasis.

Don’t wanna miss this fruiter!